There's no getting away from it. Shoppers are spurning ambient cakes, with sales falling by £22.4m (or 2.1%) year-on-year to £1.06bn. 

What's gone wrong? One issue is value, suggests Landmark trading director Darren Pugh. "Cake is now seen as more expensive and it loses out against more competitive snacks such as sharing bags of crisps," he says.

Another reason for the sales slump is a failure to attract younger consumers and the fact they don't share their parents' or grandparents' taste for a cuppa.

"The occasion for eating cake is on the decrease," says Pugh. "The younger generation aren't drinking as much tea and having accompaniments with it."

Last year Mr Kipling attempted to shake off its "dusty" image through new product development and marketing though this hasn't prevented nine of its 12 products in the top 20 losing sales over the past year.

The worst performance was from French Fancies, down 18.4%, while the strongest showing was by Angel Slices, which recorded an 11.8% hike.

French Fancies could do with a revamp, says Asda bakery category director John Cummins. "They're quite a traditional cake and they've been around for a long time. I think they could be revitalised." And he suggests Mr Kipling's Halloween-themed products such as Fiendish Fancies and Devil Slices lacked bite. "It might have had a different picture on the box but when you get to the product inside there's very little difference," he says. 

"It is good Mr Kipling is trying to innovate but I don't think it is moving as fast as the market. The large plants aren't flexible."

Thorntons, meanwhile, has captured the attention of fans of café culture with its Shortcake Caramel, which has grown 38.4% to £8.3m. "A lot of people go to coffee chains and this can replicate that experience at home," says Pugh.

And there are further positive signs for the cake market. Cummings says overall cake sales are up at Asda but adds that shoppers are buying fresh rather than ambient products.

"The cakes with a longer shelf life look a bit small and twee next to fresh cream cakes and muffins," he says, adding that it is inevitable that fresh products will start to steal shelf space from their ambient rivals.

Launch of the Year: Mr Kipling ice cream cakes (Premier Foods)
Aiming for a wider audience than the Halloween-themed cakes it unleashed this autumn, Premier Foods broadened its line-up of seasonal limited-edition offerings with a Mr Kipling range based on classic ice cream flavours.

Neapolitan Bakewells, Raspberry Ripple Slices and Tutti Frutti Pies, along with other varieties in the Inspirations range, have contributed to an 83.2% collective rise in sales for smaller Mr Kipling products.

The new cakes (rsp: £1.39) replaced the brand's previous seasonal offerings, Carrot Cake Slice and Toffee Apple Bakewell.

Top Products Survey 2010